Part 3: The Man Who TransformsPart III: The Man Who Transforms
So, regardless of your choices thus far, you'll be headed to the front of the train in order to bring it screeching to a halt. Along the way, you'll get into various fights with random mooks (who are virtually mandatory fights because you have no way to dodge around them), and, when you're switching cars, you'll frequently get a new tutorial. After this particular fight, Jude's gonna have a little chat with us.
I brought an extra one. Take it.
So, apologies to alchargia, but I forgot to change Jude into her chosen ridiculous outfit for the previous protagonist for this scene. This will not go unaddressed after this scene is finished.
You know about Allium Orbs, right? We've been using them ever since the Lilium Orbs transmutated. The Orb will let us Link during battle. When we're Linked, we can--
Time to Link up!
Okay, so this tutorial is REALLY important. Effective linking, and making the most of your linking, is mandatory for playing this game well. I'll explain step by step the tutorial, and my own comments over screenshots, but you can watch the video to get an idea what I'm doing in real-time.
To start with, initiate a link by pressing the corresponding D-pad direction to the character you want to link with. When we get a 3rd and 4th party member, we can link with them by pressing directions other than left. For now, though, we're obviously going to start with Jude.
Simple enough. Get on one side of your opponent, and your linked partner will attempt to get on the other. Why would they want to do that? Aside from the obvious advantage of focusing an enemy's attention on one side or the other, attacking from an enemy's blind spot will increase the odds of a critical hit and recovering AC mid-combo, allowing you to continue a combo maybe 2-3 hits longer. Never underestimate how important a combo can be even one hit longer.
Another advantage of linking with an ally is that ally will support you if you get into trouble. Linked partners will support your own blind spots if necessary, and vitally, will protect you from a combo.
For example, let's say an enemy launches an arte against you that hits 4-5 times. On the third or so hit, the ally will warp right in front of you and block the remainder of those hits. This is a crucial benefit.
Every playable character in the game has a support skill that activates under certain conditions. In Jude's case, if an enemy knocks you into the air and you land flat on the ground, he'll instantly warp to your position and activate Restore, which gives you back a little HP, and, if the attack KO'd you, Restore also gives you a chance of a free ressurrection (I think 20%).
So, if we were to play as Jude (or any future party members), what's Ludger's support skill? None other than Mimic. He can replicate the support skill of whoever he is linked to.
Next up, Linked Artes. Check the gauge on the left. As you attack with your linked partner (doesn't have to be the same one), that gauge builds up. When you fill up a segment, launch an arte, and you'll get that icon over the controlled character. Following that, press R2 in the brief window that icon is visible, you'll launch what's called a Linked Arte. Using Azure Edge when linked with Jude...
Gets you Light Link Charge. The various "Element Link Charges" are pretty generic attacks, where you and your partner character just charge through an enemy using that particular element to do damage. If the name of the Linked Arte isn't specified in the arte menu, you'll get one of the Link Charges. There are quite a few unique artes, though, so we're barely scratching the surface.
However, as the game mentions, you can't just stock up Linked Artes by not launching them. To advance the gauge, you need to use Linked Artes.
Yeah, so by pressing the same D-pad direction as the character you're linked, as you'll change their pre-set strategy to either Acting Together, Acting Freely, or On Your Own. Generally though, there's no much need to change strategies, except in a variety of special situations.
Like, if there were a swarm of enemies, you might want to divide your firepower so you can still get linked benefits while the AI covers other bases. Up to you.
While Azure Edge launches Light Link Charge, Time Disintegration, Ludger's other arte at the moment, will launch Dual Conquest, a fast melee combo that can hit the enemy with a status effect.
While you are hard to kill during a Linked Arte, you are NOT invincible while the animation is playing. Certain enemies, almost always late-game enemies, can be so powerful they can kill you while the arte is playing out.
After a few fights, you'll level up with Jude and Ludger. Most of the time, the characters have specific quotes they throw out for when they level up, but at story-critical times, like this one, you'll just get the Level Up! screen with the character doing a simple standing pose.
So, when you have more than one party member available, you can switch the leader of the party (read: the on-screen character running around in the field), and swap members around, for when you have more than four party members or when you want to switch the character you start each battle playing as.
When you're playing with only with one player, like I am, the character in the first slot is who you start each battle playing as. Since we have Jude, who is a fun character to play, why not play a few battles with him and show him off a bit?
This is an example of Protect in action. That Exodus agent I'm targeting fired a short volley of gunfire at me, and Ludger immediately responded by getting between me and her.
Jude starts with three artes: Demon Fist (which fires a projectile along the ground. A Tales protagonist classic, though a few heroes don't get it), Cerberus Strike (which is an Earth-elemental 3-hit combo), and Healer (which creates a small circle around Jude that restores ~80 HP to anyone in it. The effectiveness of it depends on Jude's attack power).
After taking out a few more Exodus goons and getting onto another car...
Lilium Orbs did that too, but these work a lot differently.
All Lilium Orbs quit working when they were overloaded with mana after the schism was dispelled. But we figured out that by feeding them elemental energy through an extractor, a kind of mana-absorption spyrix... We were able to resurrect them as Allium Orbs. Our Linking and development capabilities were back in business. Uh...sorry for rambling on there. Why don't you just give it a shot?
Okay, so this is another mechanic that's kinda been simplified from the first game. Basically, as Jude and this screenshot said, you gain new artes and skills by acquiring elemental ores from battles and random pickup locations in field maps. These ores are then added to the current extractor a specific character is using, and they develop artes and skills from what the extractor can give you along that elemental line.
For example, using an extractor that has the Water line, Ludger will get the arte Swift Strike, get the Vitality skill, and upgrade Time Disintegration. If he were to use the extractor Jude is currently using, Shine, he would get the Falling Thunder arte, learn the Intelligence skill, and get another skill called HP Gain. Note that characters cannot share extractors, so you must choose one or the other. But, of course, when a character has learned everything along a specific elemental line, there's no use for that character using that extractor any longer, so you can give it to someone else.
It's really a very simple mechanic in practice, despite what you may think, and extractors acquired later in the game can learn skills from multiple elemental lines at the same time, and every element has upgraded extractors where characters can learn skills along that line faster. That won't be for a little while, so just keep it under your hat for now.
After moving to another car...
Wasting a chance to see the sort of person we're dealing with? Hardly.
My watch is gone!
I don't care! I gotta find it! I can't get to Canaan without it!
Just when things couldn't get more interesting.
Like with all characters (aside from Ludger, but he has a few tricks up his eventual sleeve), Jude has a special ability that's unique to him. Jude's ability is the Snap Pivot. If you backstep and dodge an enemy's attack (as in, stay just outside of the hitbox, which means projectile attacks like Exodus gunfire would also count if you dodge them properly), Jude will disappear in a slide, and reappear behind the enemy whose attack he backstepped away from.
Because he automatically gets behind the enemy, you can enjoy all the benefits of back attacks after a Snap Pivot. And, let's be completely honest here: Snap Pivots give you major style points. Jude may not be as singularly versatile as Ludger eventually will be, but don't get me wrong: he is a very fun character to play as. Mastering the Snap Pivot will be an enormous boon to you.
A few more cars later...
Uh, Jude, you might want to check your cover there...
Up ahead's the conductor's room. I'll go in first. Meanwhile, you cover me, okay?
Ludger doesn't seem thrilled with this plan, but that's how it's gonna go down.
Don't worry. I'm used to this sort of thing. Odd for a doctor to say, I know...
Who the hell--
Oh, it's Julius.
Wait a minute...
Ludger? What're you doing here?
Ludger also notices Julius is holding both pocketwatches from that morning. Clearly we've caught him at a very awkward time.
Yeah, we're gonna need some answers here. Neither choice matters, but I'm going with L1.
I'm doing my job...
Heh, and a thorough job at that. I'd expect nothing less from Crown Agent Julius. You work fast.
Enough with the games, Bakur.
Who would have known you had such a talented little brother? Aren't you the model sibling. You've protected him well.
There's clearly some history here, but we (still) have a little problem...
After a couple backflips...
Oh, that watch!
Julius and Bisley take quite a bit of interest in Elle's watch reappearing, but...
You can take a few guesses which choice will increase the affection of which NPC, but we're going to protect Elle. Bisley can take care of himself, I think.
We will never accept peace with Rieze Maxia!
The crossfire launches the watch in the air (you should watch this scene. It's pretty rad), and it lands on Elle's pocketwatch, causing another supernova.
Huh? What's this?
I'm Elle. Elle Mel Marta.
The first trophy I ever earned in Zestiria is named after her! Its name is "Elle Mental Marta"!
Look, Elle, it's okay.
No, it's not! That guy got weird! And so did the watch!
I seem to have a knack for encountering weirdness. The Four Great Spirits. The Lord of Spirits. And now this.
Oh Jude. If only the you of you right now knew what was in store for you.
Ludger and Jude get ready to fight, but before we can...
All clear, President Verland.
Well done, Ms. Nova. My security team could learn a thing or two from you.
Uhhhh, that's not Bisley, or that black-haired woman with glasses he was with. Just where the hell are we?
Ludger! What are you doing on this train?
Friend of yours?
An old classmate.
Well, the most important thing is stopping this thing, but that's not the choice you want to make your first time through the game. Choosing R1 will increase Julius' affection, and really, we need to find out what the hell just happened.
Any idea what's happening in the other cars?
I do, unfortunately. Some terrorists dressed in white coats are attacking the other passengers onboard.
I'm coming too!
It's too dangerous.
Maybe. But I gotta take this train all the way to the Land of Canaan.
The Land of Canaan? From the legend?
You've heard of it? Do you know where it is?
It's seen in old manuscripts.
Okay, you can come. But when the fighting starts...
That's when I skedaddle!
Let's just get to the front of the train again and try and figure out what happened. We're gonna need some answers from Julius, since you don't take swipes at your boss with a clear intent to kill for no reason.
Then again, maybe Spirius is just a very strange bunch, indeed. Whatever the case, our destination is the same as before.
For this skit's choice, R1 increases Elle's affection.
Last skit of the update, so compilation video for all of them this update. Update 3 skit compilation.
So, this is the last useful tutorial of this update. Once you've filled up the entire Link Gauge, you can use another Linked Arte to go into Over Limit. There are three advantages (for now) for going into Over Limit: you have unlimited AC, you will not stagger from enemy attacks (though you can still take damage, of course), and you can launch (different) Linked Artes in a single chain of attacks.
So, for right now, you can chain Light Link Charge into Dual Conquest, or the reverse. Once you're pretty far into the game, you can start Over Limit with one ally, then quickly switch to another and launch a Linked Arte with a different comrade for a blistering series of attacks. Although the number of Linked Artes you can chain into a single combo depends on how long their different animations are, you can generally expect to put together at least four different artes.
Later in the game, there's a cherry on top to Over Limit, but that will do it for now.
So varied attacks are kind of a gimmicky kind of attack where you hold L1 and do a normal attack to cause a variety of effects, like knocking an enemy sky high or stunning them or whatever. Personally I almost never use them, but if they bring you victory, who am I to argue?
The other control introduced here is sidestepping, which is done by holding L1, holding up or down on the left control stick, and pressing X. It's not quite as useful as free running away from attacks, but side stepping can be unexpectedly useful in a wide variety of situations.
This particular tutorial also increases Power Hits and Combos, but I think we can introduce them in a real fight at the end of this update.
Speaking of which, we're back at the front of the train, and Jude seems perturbed. I have a feeling things are about to get heavy.
Stand back! Let me handle this...
Let you handle what?! We need some answers here, man.
You don't need to know. I said you don't need...
I don't know what's going on here, but Big Bro is going down!
Okay, so here's where I'll formally introduce Power Hits. Power Hits, as I explained in the first update, are how you effectively bring down the damage sponges in this game. First, start with an enemy's weakness. In this case, it's Wind-elemental attacks or Sword-type attacks, both of which Ludger has (Azure Edge and his regular attacks, respectively).
AI Ludger has started a Power Combo, indicated by the green bar on the right. When Jude attacks, he adds another element (Jude's basic attacks are Blunt-type attacks). Depending on which he started with, Ludger should add the other element to increase that multiplier, and for maximum benefit, Jude should use Cerberus Strike to add Earth-elemental.
Watch out for when a boss has any color of exclamation point above his head, because he's about to attack with an arte (in this case, a move called Falling Snow, which is an extremely fast dashing attack that slashes through a target).
However, while starting with a weakness is highly advisable, beware of attacking with a resistance. Not only will the enemy not take much damage from the hit, but they also will not stagger, and will likely counterattack. Julius here really likes to do that, so beware if you want to start off with Cerberus Strike (don't, actually).
For the first real boss of the game, Julius can be pretty hard. But, he doesn't have much health, and smart use of Power Combos will bring him to heel pretty quickly.
By the way, Grave Hits are for attacks done while an enemy is dead that are part of the same combo. The reason you would want to rub in combo hits is because you get bonus EXP from a fight depending on how long your longest combo was. There's actually a pretty easy way to get an infinite combo (or would be an infinite combo if it wasn't timed, but you can easily get 2-300 hits if you do things right). That bonus EXP can be a hell of a thing if you're good with combos.
That creature hurt my employess like this?! You! Hurry and finish him off!
It only took us three updates to turn against our own flesh and blood. But it doesn't have to end here...does it?
I can't kill Julius.
What are you waiting for? You'd spare this monster's life?
I know you have...a kind heart... And that's why--
I told you to stay away!
Bad news! The brakes have been sabotaged!
What's going on?
Update 3 alternate choices compilation
So, to recap: on our first day of work, we
1. Got accused of being a child kidnapper
2. Got ourselves involved in a terrorist incident
3. Got ourselves nearly killed by our formerly nice older brother
4. Killed our brother
5. Failed to stop said terrorist incident
6. Destroyed the world
Great job, Ludger Will Kresnik...